Castleton University student journalists are teaming up with University of Vermont students to provide news stories for local papers that otherwise might not get written.
Funded by a $2,000 grant through UVM, Castleton students will be working with Castleton resident and former New York Times freelancer Martha Molnar to report and write stories that will be published in the Rutland Herald, Mountain Times, and Lake Region Free Press.
Castleton University Media and Communication professor David Blow said he’s excited about the partnership for a variety of reasons.
“It gets my students valuable published works in daily and weekly newspapers, it gives them experience working with outside editors and I love that we’re collaborating with UVM to essentially give a more southern arm to the Community News Service site,” he said. “And it helps local papers.”
Blow said he also hopes to incorporate lessons from some of his classes into the stories that students will be working on. He said his ethics class recently scoured the Rutland Herald for diversity, which led to story ideas including a new youth LGBTQ+ group starting in Rutland.
“My hope is that we provide solid stories about issues and people that maybe aren’t being covered as much as others,” he said.
Blow’s counterpart at UVM, professor Richard Watts, is equally psyched to bring a more statewide feel to the website. UVM students worked with editor Lisa Scagliotti over the summer to produce several hard news and feature stories for weekly papers in Waterbury, Morrisville, Charlotte, Stowe, Shelburne, South Burlington, and Hinesburg.
The students are continuing to produce stories this semester.
“We are excited to work with Castleton University to expand the Community News Service,” said Watts, the director of the Center for Research on Vermont which houses the CNS.
Watts said local news has been decimated around the country. Former newspapers are now “ghosts” – content free advertising vehicles for corporate owners. Meanwhile, remaining journalistic outlets are under assault from many directions, including the White House, “fake news,” filter bubbles, and social media outlets that exploit online news without contributing to it financially or otherwise. He said there are 1,300 counties that have no longer have local news coverage, according to a recent study of “news deserts.”
“Never has local news been more important,” Watts said.
Castleton students are currently working on their first batch of stories that should be published in local papers and posted on the Community News Service site by mid to late October.
Molnar, who also taught journalism at Brooklyn college, Hunter College, Mercy College, and College of New Rochelle, said she loves the chance to work with students again and help provide needed stories for local papers.
“I'm thrilled to be part of this truly win-win project. The students get to see their byline in print in several local papers, and will surely use these articles in their future job searches. Meanwhile, the papers get ready-made, excellent stories to supplement their own reporters' efforts,” she said.
This story was written by Dave Blow, media and communication professor and advisor for The Spartan.